This book describes the geography of the forests of the South as it once was and as it is today. For some lands, history has altered the course of ecological transition, and this has been noted. Never has the use of land been modified so rapidly by mankind in so short a period as within the past century. As the story of mankind continues to be written, so too will changes in land use and the nature of forests be noted.
Man's use of the land and its resources often sets in motion natural processes that cause permanent change. Frequently, the results are destructive—sometimes catastrophic. Erosion from cleared slopes removes topsoil developed over thousands of years and gullies from poorly engineered roads lower the moisture regime of the soil and degrade forest sites. Although the forests of the South have shown remarkable ability to reoccupy lands clearcut for timber, burned, or cleared for agriculture, new stands are usually of different species than were those under virgin conditions. Pines, sweetgum, yellow-poplar, or scrub oaks may now dominate rehabilitated sites where once vigorous stands of beech-birch-maple, chestnut, or oak-hickory covered the land. Hence, the forests in much of the region have been modified more or less severely by previous land use.
Forest practices, as well as the vegetative composition of the forest, will continue to be affected by land-use transition. Conversion of timber-producing forest lands to residential communities, factories, and reservoirs; or withdrawal of forests for watersheds, game preserves, parks, and scientific studies of the environment will necessitate intensifying practices on remaining lands to supply the nation's fiber needs. Site changes, and the necessity for highest production, will rarely permit reversion to original timber types. These managed forests will, however, be subjected to the same biota, edaphic, geographic, and climatic influences as their predecessors; foresters who manage them will be most successful when they are guided by wise consideration of the ways these factors are expressed in the native forest cover types.
So it is that I commend this textbook to a serious student. Its authors have field experience and education to justify that recommendation. Professor Laurence Walker, Ph.D., with five decades of the practices of forestry as researcher, national forest manager, and instructor, preceded me, once-removed, as dean of this college. Professor Brian Oswald, Ph.D., brought to the task experiences from beyond the South to the southern forest.
R. Scott Beasley, Dean Arthur Temple College of Forestry Stephen F. Austin State University Nacogdoches, Texas
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